The Duke - November 11, 2015

New John Lewis advert
New John Lewis advert
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I’m looking forward to next Christmas. Well, when I say “next” Christmas, I actually mean the one coming at the end of 2016 rather than “this” Christmas, which is technically speaking also “next” Christmas, if you see what I mean.

The trouble is that I’m already thoroughly fed up with “this” (2015) Christmas. It’s been around too long. I’m sure the first new decorations went up a few days after Twelfth Night made us take down the old ones. I’ve no idea how many shopping days there are left because the “countdown to Christmas” seemed to start when there were 365 of them to go.

Last season’s mince pies were barely stale before this season’s went on sale (the Co-Op had theirs ready in September) and Tesco put its Christmas trees up on November 1. Advent calendars were yesterday’s news before the first chocolate hidey hole had been opened, and that declining group of traditionalists who still send real cards rather than e-mail excuses will have had them signed, sealed and all but delivered for some time.

We always used to know when Christmas was coming because mums (and occasionally dads) across the land began to throw everything from the pantry into big mixing bowls, and hours later there would appear a fabulous cake which wasn’t to be cut into until Christmas Eve.

Another sign was when stores dusted down their grottos, sobered their santas and charged a fortune for a colourfully wrapped plastic toy and the chance to sit on some old bloke’s knee and whisper what you really wanted for Christmas, but knew you wouldn’t get.

This year, what I know I’m not going to get is the Celestron AstroMaster Plus Refractor Telescope with Moon Filter and 175x Eyepiece. It’s a snip at £99.95, but I know I’m not going to get one because lovely little Lily has been flaunting hers since last week.

Lily, if you haven’t already seen elsewhere, is the centrepiece of this year’s John Lewis Christmas television commercial. She’s the little girl who connects with a lonely old man on the moon thanks to her Celestron AstroMaster etc etc (obviously what every child wants and now zillions adults will be trying to get).

She’s also the little girl who has boosted the sales of tissues thanks to the tear-jerking nature of the commercial, hopefully boosted the coffers of Age UK, who worked alongside John Lewis and the adam&eve DDB advertising agency on the £7million follow up campaign to last year’s award-winning Monty the Penguin advert, and certainly given the unknown Aurora Aksnes a number one hit with her plaintive acoustic version of the Oasis song Half the World Away (previously used as the theme to much-missed sitcom The Royle Family).

In what has been described as “a battle to the death between bitterly competitive brands”, Lily’s launch opened the floodgates to other big players such as Marks & Spencer, Debenham’s and Waitrose.

Last year’s Sainsbury’s First World War “Christmas truce” was criticised for exploiting the conflict, but still racked up 17 million YouTube views, on top of the people who saw it on television.

Christmas commercials have taken on a life of their own. My daily paper of choice reviewed the John Lewis one in its First Night theatre and film style, awarding four stars as a “touching lunar scenario which raises the creative bar in the seasonal battle to tug the heartstrings.” Or should that be loosen the pursestrings?

It even saw an almost instant parody on the satirical website The Poke (slogan “Time Well Wasted”) which combined Lily’s discovery with Darth Vader in a great Star Wars spoof. Well, at least it put the merry into my Christmas.

Grandfather’s tattoo is a case of ‘nice one, Cyril’

I’m probably swimming against the tide here, but next to men in short shorts and anyone in sandals (with or without socks), my pet hate is tattoos.

It’s not just those whole arm “sleeves” or jokey “this way up” ones, it’s any tattoo. At best they are a sad reminder of lost loves or lost youth, at worst they are a sign of mental instability. Wear your heart on your sleeve if you must, but not all over your body.

However, this week I made an exception. No, I didn’t neck several pints and get a “Yorkshire rules” one done in a moment of weakness.

But I did find myself saying “well done” to 85-year-old great grandfather Cyril Cooper, a former factory worker from Rhyl who got a red heart tattooed on his arm in memory of his wife, who died earlier this year aged 82.

She was the love of his life, he says, and they were married for 45 years. When she was alive she wouldn’t let him have one, now she’s dead he wanted something other than photos to remember her by.

“I hope she doesn’t come back and haunt me now,” he said.

Far from it. If she’s watching she will hopefully be very touched.